UNESCO in Bulgaria - a jewelry box with nine jewels

UNESCO in Bulgaria - a jewelry box with nine jewels 890 , 10 Days

Are nine sites under UNESCO protection too few or too many for a country? They are many if situated in a small area – as small as Bulgaria. But few, if that territory can tell the history of a whole European civilization. It was here that the oldest gold treasure in the world, dating back to the 5th millennium BC, was discovered. The ancient Thracians that inhabited the region a few millenniums after that left many wonders that spark our curiosity as well - from mysterious stone sanctuaries to elaborate royal tombs. The territory of the country later became a Roman province and it was about Serdica (today's Sofia) that Emperor Constantine said: "Serdika is my Rome". The Bulgarian tribes that arrived here in the 7th century, together with the local Slavic tribes, continued the legacy of the region. After the acceptance of Christianity, they developed a rich culture and even created their own writing system - the Cyrillic, which later spread to the other Slavic countries. Apart from the numerous cultural sites, there are two natural ones that have made it to the UNESCO list as well - the Pirin National Park - with its limestone mountain landscapes and glacial lakes and the Srebarna Nature Reserve - a freshwater lake, home to over 100 species of birds, many of them rare and endangered.

UNESCO sites in Bulgaria:
♦ Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak - famous for its well-preserved exquisite murals
♦ Thracian Tomb in Sveshtari - renowned for its half-human, half-plant caryatids
♦ Town of Nessebar - a unique architecture mix of Hellenistic ruins and 19th century traditional wooden Bulgarian houses
♦ Madara Horseman - an 8th century rock relief carved in a 100-m-high cliff
♦ Boyana Church - a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church, situated in Vitosha Mountains, near the capital city of Sofia
♦ Ivanovo Rock Churches - a complex of rock-hewn churches, chapels, monasteries and cells, decorated with beautiful medieval frescoes
♦ Rila Monastery - the biggest monastery in Bulgaria and important spiritual site throughout the Bulgarian history
♦ Pirin Mountain - known for its limestone mountain landscapes and glacial lakes
♦ Srebarna Lake - a freshwater lake, home to over 100 rare bird species


Day 1. Arrival in Sofia.
Arrival in Sofia and transfer to your hotel. Free time to explore the city on your own.-/-/-

Day 2. Sofia – Rila Monastery – Melnik
We start our tour with one of the emblems of Bulgaria - the Rila Monastery. Founded in the 10th century by the monk-hermit St. Ivan of Rila, the monastery played a crucial role throughout Bulgarian history, preserving the Bulgarian spirit and culture during the five centuries of Ottoman rule. Nowadays, it continues to be one of the most important spiritual sites in the country. It is situated in a picturesque area in the heart of Rila Mountain - among age-old forests and high rocky peaks. The most characteristic feature of the monastery is its vibrant and detailed frescoes, created by one of the most prominent Bulgarian artists at the time. The monastery is also home to Rafail's cross - a wooden crucifix showing 104 religious scenes and 650 miniature figures, carved out of a whole piece of wood (81 х 43 cm). The route continues southward to the small town of Melnik - the smallest one in Bulgaria. It is known for its good wine, old houses and picturesque landscape of steep sandstone pyramids surrounding it. We will spend the night in a hotel in Melnik. B/-/-

Day 3. Melnik – Pirin – Bansko
Today we are heading to Bansko resort, driving through the picturesque southern parts of Pirin Mountain. We will do a short hiking tour around the Bandaritsa circuit, starting from Vihren hut. Along the way, we will get to enjoy spectacular views of the glacial lakes and high peaks. Due to its unique biodiversity, a huge part of the Pirin Mountain has been declared a protected territory – Pirin National Park and it was added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. On the way back to Bansko we will see the Baykushev's pine - the oldest coniferous tree in Bulgaria, believed to be over 1300 years old. Overnight in a hotel in Bansko. B/-/-

Day 4. Bansko –Plovdiv
Our journey continues through the quaint mountain roads of the Rila and Rodopi Mountains, before reaching our stop for the day - Plovdiv. Plovdiv is one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world. It has existed as a settlement for more than 8 000 years. It has been the capital of Ancient Thrace and a large trade centre in the Middle Ages. In the historic quarter of the city, we will explore the beautifully decorated houses in traditional Bulgarian style, ancient fortress walls, the ancient Roman theatre and stadium and the numerous magnificent churches Overnight in a hotel in the city. B/-/-

Day 5. Plovdiv – Kazanlak tomb – Nessebar
After breakfast, we are heading to Kazanlak Valley, known also as the Valley of the Thracian Rulers. The term was coined by a Bulgarian archaeologist in the 20th century, due to the extremely high concentration of Thracian tombs and monuments found in the area. Eight of the tombs have been explored in detail and most of them are open for visitors. We will visit the Kazanlak tomb, dating back to the 4th century BC. The tomb consists of a narrow corridor and a round burial chamber, both of them decorated with ornate murals depicting the everyday life and the special rituals of the Thracians. Another term often used to describe this valley is the Valley of the Roses. Roses take a central part in the culture of the locals. Every year in June a Rose Festival takes place in the region, so if you are travelling during that period you can get a chance to witness it and even take place in the rose-picking activities. We will then continue to the town of Nessebar, situated on the Black Sea coast. We will spend the night in a hotel in Nessebar. B/-/-

Day 6. Nessebar
Today we will explore the charming town of Nessebar. Although it is a famous holiday resort for Bulgarians and foreigners alike, the town has managed to preserve its laid-back atmosphere. Nessebar (then Mesembria) was one of the most important ancient seaside colonies of the Greeks that inhabited it in the 6th century BC. In the later centuries Romans, Byzantines and Bulgarians have left their marks as well and contributed to the town turning into a real open-air museum nowadays. We will take a walk in the city and explore its fortress walls, numerous basilicas and churches, as well as the wooden traditional Bulgarian houses. Overnight in Nessebar. B/-/-

Day 7. Nessebar – Madara Horseman – Sveshtari – Srebarna
Today we are leaving the seaside town and heading towards the Madara Horseman. Historians have not agreed on the meaning and symbolist of this rock relief carved in a 100-m-high cliff. Some scholars believe that it depicts a Bulgarian ruler from the 8th century, while others think it represents or is somehow connected to the old Bulgarian deity Tangra. Either way, the cratsmanship of the people who carved it is worth admiration. The next stop is another Thracian tomb - the one in the village of Sveshtari. It dates back to III century BC and is characterized by the voluminous female figures framing the central compartment. A short walk from the tomb is the Muslim sanctuary of Demir Baba Teke. It is believed to have healing powers and is frequented by locals praying nearby it. Overnight in the village of Srebarna. B/-/-

Day 8. Srebarna – Ivanovo Rock Churches –Veliko Tarnovo
We start our day with a visit to Srebarna lake, located just a few kilometres from the village. It is an important stop on the path of migratory birds in their migration between Europe and Africa, called Via Pontica. About 100 species nest here. Among them is the Dalmatian pelican, considered by many to be e most attractive one. We will then continue to the rock-hewn churches near Ivanovo village - an important centre of Hesychasm (type of monastic life) in Bulgaria in the 14th century. Here are some of the best-preserved examples of the iconography of that time. Our last stop for the day is Veliko Tarnovo - the Medieval Capital of Bulgaria, where the glorious past of the Second Bulgarian Kingdom can be felt. We will visit the Tsarevets Hill which is towered by the Patriarch church “Holy Ascending of God” and explore the old town. Overnight in Veliko Tarnovo. B/-/-

Day 9. Veliko Tarnovo – Sofia/ Boyana church
Today we are heading back to Sofia. On the way, we will take a short stop to visit the cave "Saeva Dupka", known as the underground pearl of Bulgaria. The cave is filled with massive stalagmites, stalactites, and other cave formations. Before finishing the tour in Sofia, we will visit the Boyana Church - a beautiful medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church situated on the outskirts of the city. Free time to explore the capital city on your own. Overnight in a hotel in Sofia.

Day 10. Departure.
Transfer to the airport for departure. B/-/-

Price Includes:
all transport according itinerary in AC vehicle
airport transfers on day 1 and day 10
English-speaking guide
overnights in standard hotels incl. breakfast- all overnights are based on double rooms with private WC/shower

Not Included:
meals not mentioned
international flight tickets
alcoholic drinks and other personal expenses
entrance fees to the sites (allow 40€ per person)

Additional Services:
airport transfers on other days: 15 EUR per vehicle (1-3 pax)
supplement pp. at 2-3 travelling together: 130 EUR


UNESCO in Bulgaria - a jewelry box with nine jewels (Rated 4.96 / 5 Based on 396 Reviews.)
890 EUR
10 Days
Single Supplement
240 EUR
Open for booking

Currency fluctuations might cause correction of price at any time.

No special experience is needed; everyone who is in condition to cope with long Saturday walks in the forest can also cope with these tours. As a rule, the trips are short and at a low altitude. Often, it is your choice to join or skip a day-tour. The routes follow a hilly terrain without steep ascents and descents. Normally we walk 3/5h a day.

Group Size
Reservation System Code
Behind the curtain of the spiritual Islam: A glance of Saudi Arabia 2240 , 8 Days

Behind the curtain of the spiritual Islam: A glance of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of the most enigmatic places to visit in the Middle East - a blend of...
Caucasus Explorer - Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan 1180 , 11 Days

Caucasus Explorer - Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

The Caucasus - the region where Europe meets Asia, where dramatic nature landscapes meet...
Balkan Kaleidoscope - 8 Balkan Countries in 14 Days 1190 , 14 Days

Balkan Kaleidoscope - 8 Balkan Countries in 14 Days

Once upon a time people said that the Balkans were the “power-keg of Europe”. Indeed,...

View all» What people say about us

Penguin Travel on Trust Pilot
Based on 86 reviews
Trust Pilot
Binky's Review Verified review Verified
Great caucus Explorer trip
Caucus Explorer( Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan ) was a great trip . Even though our Van is fully...
Beth, 5 May
Daniel's review Verified review Verified
8 day Caucasus trip
5/5 for the Caucasus trip in apr/may 2024. Everything was well planned and executed.
Haris, 3 May
Maribeth's review Verified review Verified
Excellent and Amazing Tour
Excellent tour. My highlight of the tour is Sarajevo, Mostar, Ohrid and more places. I like the itinerary...
Arnold, 6 April
View all»


09.07.2024 16:01

Photo Diary: Afghanistan Tour (Kabul, Herat, Bamiyan, Band-e Amir, Mazar-I-Sharif and Other)

In today's article, we will take you on a virtual journey to a misunderstood land where ancient civilizations have left their mark on rugged mountains and sweeping valleys. Afghanistan, a land often overshadowed by conflict, unveils a strikingly different side to those who dare to look beyond the headlines. It's a place of profound beauty and cultural richness, a stark contrast to its war-torn...

27.06.2024 17:45

Everything you need to know about travelling to Afghanistan: Essential travel information (Q&A with our tour leaders and local guides)

Traveling to Afghanistan in 2024 is an adventure like no other. Despite its rocky past and current political situation, more tourists are starting to explore the country, thanks in part to the Taliban's push for tourism. Penguin Travel is leading the way, having successfully organized a few trips in the last year. Must-see spots include the stunning Bamyan Valley, the gorgeous Band-e-Amir...

17.06.2024 11:32

Best Trekking Trips to do in Europe This Fall: From the Lycian Way to Madeira's Marvels

As the leaves start to turn brown and the summer crowds dwindle, Europe transforms into a trekker's paradise. This fall, grab your hiking boots and explore some of the continent's most stunning trails on a self-guided adventure. Here are six must-visit trekking destinations that promise breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and unforgettable experiences. Lycian Way, Turkey The Lycian Way in...

13.06.2024 17:20

Everything you need to know about travelling to Syria in 2024: Essential travel information (Q&A with our tour leaders and local guides)

Syria welcomes you again! For many years, Syria has been in the midst of a civil war, making headlines on a regular basis. However, the country is now slowly returning to a state of peace and tranquility, and some areas are once again open to tourists. In 2022, we resumed our travel programs in Syria and are excited to have the opportunity to showcase all that the country has to offer to...